Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hello Again, Hello.

Is it ironic that during the Blogging Month of November, which I did not 'sign up for,' I have stopped posting as often as I used to?

Anyway. Lots of busy stuff going on, and as usual some is good and some is...not so good.

Last Thursday was our evening conference session. I went home and came back, dressed in professional clothes to help me feel and act the part. And I am pleased to report that the conferences went very well! There was a waiting period for awhile, but I did a pretty good job of keeping the discussions short and to the point. I took the advice of a colleague, I'm not sure which one, and I stayed standing for the whole time. That way, even if the parents did sit, they knew not to get too comfortable. Or something.

As always, I saw a number of parents whose students do well, and I got to say good things. The kids got to smile shyly and the parents got to feel pride and relief. For the students who haven't done as well, either I'd already been in touch with the parents, or I quickly and calmly reviewed my information. I never hesitate to show parents my gradebooks, especially when they ask how many homeworks have been missed. The parents then really have no choice but to understand the situation. I also try to make sure I stay as positive and proactive as I can, outlining solutions for improvement. Also, I also had them sign in with a good phone number and their email address, if they have one, and I gave every parent my email address and homework website. A few were surprised and very pleased to receive that information.

So at the end of the night, I felt relieved and happy. I saw nearly forty parents and many of them had the students with them, meaning the kids knew we were serious about them doing their job. The only thing that put a damper on the evening was seeing the Crazy Parent from last year, waiting for a teacher across the hall. By then the alloted time was up, so I put my things away. It looked like most other teachers were hanging around to quickly chat with the remaining parents. So unfortunately, as I was getting ready to go, and I *do* think it was on purpose, that horrid woman took one of my chairs to sit her insane behind on. And I was not about to talk to her and get an earful of nastiness, so I had to leave with everything away except a chair. And if you've been in a classroom, you know how possessive and territorial teachers can be about desks and chairs, namely because usually no one has enough or matching numbers. Grr!

But overall, a good night; I was pleased. I do really hope to see improvement in all my students. And I have repledged to keep in better touch with parents, especially now that I have some of their email addresses.

Then came Friday. We gave practice tests to the whole school in the morning, and the afternoon was set aside for grading. Teams were assigned to grade the writing and to record the multiple choice. Well, it was rather a disaster, but not for the reasons you'd hope.

Since clusters of teachers teach the same students, those people were roughly grouped into teams to grade those classes' work. So I worked with math, social studies, and science teachers from my grade. I've talked to and worked with them before, and so soon enough we got into a rhythm of chatting amiably and grading. Naturally, as before, I graded twice as fast as the others. I suppose I'm more accustomed to quickly reading and gauging written responses. At least they were there to help me, so I wouldn't have to read over a hundred sets of four responses, on my own time.

Well. When another teacher finished his pile, I handed him a couple from my stack. He graded them and then I took a look so I could record the grades. Well. The grades he'd given were all...wrong.

Now, surely this kind of work is subjective. There is a certain amount of guesswork, but it's educated guessing, not random. There are rubrics and sample high-level answers given to us. Plus, the student has to answer the question and follow the directions. For example, if the question asks about a character's feelings at a certain point in the story, and the students gives an accurate feeling, but from another point in the story, that answer is completely incorrect. If they are asked to choose one of two things and discuss it, and they make up their own? Completely irrelevant. ZERO! There's no way around it.

So this teacher had basically graded all of them randomly. He protested mildly that he was just interpreting what the student was trying to say, from their point of view. Flabbergasted, I sputtered that you just can't do that. I said to him flatly, so all your work is wrong, and I have to do it all again. I choked up with tears of shock and frustration, stating that this was a complete waste of my time--I'm now going to have to redo everything.

I had to leave the room to let my supervisors know what was happening. When I returned, the teacher was like, oh, I get here early in the morning, I'll look at them and do them over. I didn't really respond, because if he didn't do his job the first time, why the hell would I trust him to suddenly care about doing it correctly a second time? No way.

Here's the thing. This teacher is an amazing person, been around for thirty years, but is showing the stubbornness of the old-school generation. On that day and before, he's groaned and complained about having to do this, since he doesn't teach it, and he doesn't understand it, blah blah blah. And this charade of work on Friday, I actually believe he did it on purpose, to protest having to do something he didn't want to do.

Well, I'm not okay with that attitude and that behavior. I don't know what to do about it, except not trust him anymore. The fact that grown people, adults in charge of educating future generations, can be not only bad team members, but actually knowingly sabotage the team? Truly disgusts me.
The whining and complaining and lack of work ethic was sadly not limited to our group; it infects the entire staff. Meaning that there are a good number of honest and hard-working adults in the building, but also far too many selfish and unempathetic grown-ups.

I know that I have high standards for people. I expect people to be mature and have a sense of personal accountability. It's very silly of me, because I'm always seeing evidence to the contrary--on the news, on reality television, from parents, and now from colleagues. It never ceases to bother me, and it often makes me feel defeated and sad. So I try to focus on doing MY job, and helping the other positive people if they need it, and making sure that I do what I can to instill that responsibility in my students and my peers, by my positive influence.


Okay, so it was on Friday and now it's passed, and I have to suck it up and keep doing my job, regardless of what others want to do.

Moving on...breathe...

On Saturday morning, I helped interview students for the Australia group. It went very well! I enjoyed meeting the kids and hearing their answers and responses to the interview questions. For example, the other teacher asked them to name their favorite song, and a couple named really old-school rock songs, stuff by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Ozzy Osbourne. Funny! I was, I suppose, pleasantly surprised that they were aware of music so far before their time. That gives me hope, because in my experience, children think that events and culture from the 80s or even the early 90s is old!

Speaking of the 80s, I am continuously shocked at the lack of cultural knowledge that Boyfriend has. Never seen The Goonies, or Saved by the Bell, never even heard of Weird Science, and bunches of other things. I think he was too busy absorbing political information, news, and other smart stuff. :) So now I get to introduce him to all that he missed while growing up, and of course he loves it. Probably not as much as he'd experienced it all as a kid, but still.

This morning I made him watch my all-time favorite movie, The Worst Witch. It was made in 1986 and seems to be the epitome of cheesy 80s special effects. But I must have watched it easily a hundred times in my youth, and it's got some big names, and it's also got a nice moral--to believe in yourself and persevere through the tough times growing up. And I like the songs (yes, it's a sort-of musical, too). There are so many great quotes and inflections in this movie, and I can totally talk along with the whole thing. Love it! Sometimes the Disney channel still shows it around Halloween, so have a look if you never have.

Err, anyway, back to the point. The interviews were really interesting, the kids were sweet and full of personality, and it made me even more excited for the trip. I love traveling myself, but I am so psyched to help kids start seeing the world and loving travel on their own.

Let's see. This is a short week, and for that I am so grateful. I'm totally behind on our current unit, and I feel like I'm constantly scrambling to get things accomplished...but oh well.

I think I've hit that autumn wall. I'm tired, I'm irritable sometimes, I'm behind in the curriculum, but I don't care. It's exhausting being Miss during the day and Julie in the evenings and weekends, and making that switch all the time. Does that make sense? Hm. Whatever, I need a vacation to clear my head.

I am very excited to have a New York Thanksgiving with friends! A blog friend has invited us to her celebration, and I'm honored. Holidays have never been a fun time for me, with constant family melodrama (meaning traveling between different houses and relatives, making sure each person "got" their requisite time). It's been such a relief to be on my own during the holiday season. I certainly miss my family, but I don't need to deal with holiday time nonsense with them. So to have people here in New York to hang out with, it makes me feel grown-up and welcome, and it's all good.

After the big turkey day (bread for me!), Boyfriend and I are hoping to do a little roadtrip. I may have mentioned, or you may remember, last Thanksgiving I drove myself to Connecticut to see our labyrinth. So we might do that again, and keep exploring other parts of New England. If I don't get too tired from driving. Or if we find an outlet mall, because apparently I always need to go shopping. I kind of need some sweaters, because most of the ones I have are either awfully thick and heavy, or are thin but kind of baggyish. And baggy is not cool.

Ho hum. Must work on persuasive stuff, during a short vacation week. I'll do my best. Always behind. But I think I'm doing a good job of taking things step by step, so things make sense and build on each other, and so the students will 'get it.' Ack, wish us all luck.

1 comment:

Schoolgal said...

I hope you are not judging all teachers with up to 30 years as you have this idiot.

Funny, when you are called in to grade the 8th grade Science test, let's see if he changes his tune.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your road trip.